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ESTA in transit: Do I need an ESTA if I am in transit?

Do you have a trip planned with a stopover in the USA? In that case, you might be wondering what documents you’ll be needing for a US transit. The ESTA transit visa waiver is an important entry requirement you will need if you are in transit in the United States.

The ESTA visa waiver became available in 2009, all eligible foreign nationals can now use the ESTA for transit through the USA and do not need to worry about obtaining a special US transit visa or applying via the embassy or consulate. Read on to find out how to apply for a US transit ESTA and for other useful information for connecting travel in the United States.

Do you need an ESTA to transit through the USA?

If you are a citizen of a visa waiver country and you have a connecting flight in the United States to another country, then yes, you still need the ESTA transit authorization. The process of obtaining a transit ESTA for the USA is fairly simple and takes each applicant a few minutes.

It does not matter which country you are connecting to. You need to apply for the ESTA transit USA at least 72 hours before your trip. Whether you’ll be in the United States in transit for an hour or 10 hours, you will be required by immigration authorities to have a valid ESTA. An ESTA for transit through the United States can be easily obtained by completing an online form.

Bear in mind that the ESTA is electronically linked to your passport, upon arrival in the US, the immigration officers can check whether you have a valid ESTA or not in their system.

How to Apply for a Transit ESTA?

Firstly, as the ESTA is valid for transit through the US, all applicants must ensure they are eligible to apply for the ESTA registration online by checking the necessary ESTA requirements.

Applying online for an ESTA visa waiver is a quick and simple process which requires each applicant complete an online form with personal details, travel information including passport data and answering some basic security questions. It is important to have your biometric passport on hand when filling out the application.

Make sure that all the information entered in the application matches exactly the details in your passport as any errors here could cause problems with the application.

When completing the ESTA for transit application, an area that sometimes confuses travelers is the question: Is your travel to the US occurring in transit to another country? It is imperative that all questions are answered truthfully and as accurately as possible therefore here indicate ‘yes’ to this question if you have a connecting flight in the US and your final destination is a different country.

The US Government and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) who manage the ESTA scheme, strongly recommend applying for the ESTA visa waiver at least 72 hours before departure. Note that it can take up to 3 days to receive the approved ESTA, although it is mostly a speedy process and the USA transit ESTA is usually granted within a few hours.

ESTA visa waiver for US stopovers

Whether in transit to another country through the USA or returning home with a stopover in America, you will need to apply for a US transit visa in the form of an ESTA.

The US Customs and Border Protection Agency enforces strict requirements for travellers who wish to visit or pass in transit through the USA.

The nature of the ESTA is to authorize travel to and through the United States. If you are going to have a stopover in the United States, you are required to apply for the transit ESTA. However, an approved ESTA authorization does not guarantee entry or transit through the US.

In the rare case that a traveler has an ESTA for transit purposes denied, (Additional information about the common ESTA refusal reasons) they will have to contact an embassy or consulate and apply for a category B visa, even if they are not planning on staying in the United States.

What is the definition of an ESTA in Transit?

The definition of ESTA for transit is the Electronic System for Travel Authorization which is a visa waiver designed to allow eligible foreign citizens to enter the US as many times as necessary over a period of 2 years. Each time the traveler enters the USA, they are permitted to stay as long as 90 days but for transit it can be as short as a few hours. The ESTA is available for tourism, business or transit purposes.

The ESTA program began in 2009 as a way of simplifying and facilitating the system of applying for a tourist, business or transit visa for the US for those nationals who are from the 39 eligible Visa Waiver Program (VWP) countries.

Among the 39 VWP countries, for those who travel often or send the most tourists, there is the ESTA for UK citizens and the ESTA for Australian citizens as well as being available for citizens from Ireland, New Zealand and much of Europe.

Get the ESTA for your connecting flight

As we have established previously in this article, remember to get an ESTA for your connecting flight in the United States. Immigration officers will check that you have a valid ESTA upon arrival.

Once you obtain the ESTA for transit, you will be able to use it for two consecutive years. Therefore, you don’t have to worry about paying additional costs or obtaining a visa every time you need to pass through the US.

Now you have all the information you need to apply for your ESTA transit visa through US, you can get on to planning your next trip.

Can I leave the airport with an in-transit ESTA?

Eligible citizens or passport holders of any Visa Waiver Program country require either a visa or an ESTA travel authorization to travel to or transit the United States of America. If you are only planning to transit to another country, without remaining in the US, answer “Yes” to the “Is your travel to the US occurring in transit to another country? question, part of the ESTA online application. However, the “In Transit” does not refer to layover flight where travelers are not allowed to leave the airport.

Please note that an ESTA travel authorization is valid for 2 years. It does not limit the number of times you can enter the country as long as you are in transit. Moreover, note that if you answer that “YES,” your visa is a transit visa and you wish to reuse your ESTA to travel at a later date, it will no longer be valid.

When applying for an ESTA online, you link your current passport to the application for a travel authorization. Should your passport expire and you are issued a new one, you will be required to apply for a new ESTA before your next trip to the United States.

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